I have to admit that of me thought about jumping on the current internet fascination with badly animated YouTube videos. I can rant for days about that little sugar-stealing liar Jonny. Maybe I will next month, if we’re still talking about him then. But then Simon sat down in front of this, and, well, I hate this a whole lot, too, and there’s a whole genre of hatred to explore here as well.
This specific one is five mechanical animals, each with their own specialty. They do various rescue things for various other animals in their weird constructed home. Island Owl (Lenore Zann) sends them to do the thing. Rex (Jim Fowler) is the leader, whose power is strength. The others are the flying Unicorn (Leah Ostry), the speedy Mouse (Abigail Gordon), the tool-using Komodo (Shannon Lynch), and the stretchy Sasquatch (Ian MacDougall). No explanation, so far as I can tell, is ever given as to how these characters are sentient, who the Builder is, why the other characters are dumb enough to need their help all the time, or anything else.
Their category, however, is Shows That Basically Have The Same Plot Every Time. I mean, there are worse examples. There’s one called Bo On the Go! that has almost the same script every episode with the barest of changes. Offensively so—her companion gets a gift, which turns out to be the key to solve the problem. He figures it out before she does and tries to give it to her, and she tells him not to bother her while she’s thinking, then acts proud of herself for having figured out that the gift is what will solve things. At least this one is a little more involved than that.
Still, you can work out pretty early that they’re going to express concern that the solution here will turn out to require, I don’t know, a screwdriver or something, and how are they going to get one of those? Oh, wait, Komodo is literally just made of them! Oh, yeah! We did that two episodes ago! Next episode, we’ll have forgotten that just because Mouse is shy doesn’t mean she isn’t fast! As soon as the problem shows up, the solution is obvious, and it will take ten minutes of puttering around and Sasquatch doing something stupid before the characters get there, because, sure, okay.
Okay, sure, kids can learn well from repetition, and I get that. The thing is, though, I’m not sure these shows are actually teaching all that much. Use the tools you have? Follow directions? Don’t listen to mechanical blue cryptids? I mean, these are fine and valuable lessons, I suppose, or at any rate no worse than any others, but I’m not sure we need to see them over and over and over again.
I get awfully tired of how admiring these characters can be of one another, especially when, as with Sasquatch, I can’t think of anything positive to say about them. There’s an episode where he literally says that thinking about the problem is too much work and he’s just going to rush in, and I have to say the number of times in my life that “I just need someone really stretchy” has been the solution has been limited. Maybe Komodo could have a rubber band instead. But with most of the others, they’re just so bland that I don’t have anything bad to say, either.
I am also, though, tired of the “educated voice” of The One Intelligent Character. And there’s always only one; the idea that characters can be intelligent and strong (or, I suppose, stretchy?) does not seem to occur to the makers of these cartoons. They tend to look as though they’re wearing glasses, too, because of course they do. They don’t tend to go full-on Nerd anymore; we’re at least teaching our kids that it’s okay to be smart. But we’re also still teaching them that The Smart One is a separate aspect of our identity, and you only need one in our group.
Animal Mechanicals is, to me, another one of those symptoms shows. It’s not the show itself that’s the problem, exactly. It’s that it’s one of a whole bunch of shows that are similar in a way that bothers me, but not enough to really be about any one show on its own. It’s the cumulative weight of a lot of them, and it’s the fact that this is the one that he turned on that meant that this is the one I wrote about.
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